A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on December 4, 2018 shows President Hassan Rouhani speaking during a rally in the city of Shahrud, around 400 kilometres east of the capital Tehran Image Credit: AFP

A report released last week has confirmed long-held suspicions in the Gulf about Iran’s regional intentions.

According to the Arab Strategy Forum’s report titled ‘The Economic Costs and Consequences of Iran’s Nuclear Programme’, Tehran spent a whopping $500 billion (Dhs1.83 trillion) since 2002 on its nuclear programme.

For many in the international community advocating to ‘give Iran the benefit of the doubt’, this report is proof of Iran’s sinister intentions. No country would invest that much money into a programme just for “peaceful purposes” as Iran claims. The report should also seriously upset the Iranian people, suffering from economic hardship, to know that their critical resources are being wasted by a country that only wishes to use them for malicious purposes such as fomenting strife and tension in the region.

While Iran is under increasing international pressure to curb its ongoing and detrimental regional meddling, the United States administration pulled out of a nuclear accord with Tehran earlier this year that many critics say only empowered Iran. The lifting of sanctions in exchange for scaled-down nuclear enrichment has only filled Iran’s state coffers with more money to fund its regional proxies wreaking havoc in Arab countries. Since then, the US has renewed sanctions on Iran, hurting the government and threatening other economic deals with western powers. Earlier this year, protests erupted in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar over the deteriorating economic situation in the country and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a desperate attempt to maintain relevance, later threatened to disrupt oil shipments in the Strait of Hormuz.

Analysts were quick to point out that the threat carried little weight as Iranian leaders have repeatedly made such empty threats, but could never dare carry them out.

However, whether or not Iran is serious in its current threats, what is evidently clear is that it has no intention of curbing its meddling in the region where it supports proxy militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. The nuclear deal reached with world powers under the administration of former US president Barack Obama only served to empower it to boost its malign activities. This is especially seen in Yemen where its support for Al Houthi militias has further prolonged the three-year war that wreaked havoc on the country and caused sufferings to millions. Its arming of the militants in Yemen defies international conventions and the UN resolutions.

The world’s patience with Iran has grown thin and if it does not re-evaluate its choices soon, it will be a decision that it might come to regret.